Fairyhouse primed for their 'best Festival ever' as National beckons
EVER since the late 1800s the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse Racecourse has been providing some of the most exciting racing in the history of the sport in this country.
From the days of Robert Peel, the first winner in 1870, the race quickly became Ireland's most valuable and prestigious steeplechase, and continues to do so today, with a prize-fund of €250,000 making it one of the most sought-after titles on the National Hunt calendar.
Mares have always fought hard to win this 3m 5f chase, but in 2013 the Dot Love-trained 50/1 outsider, Liberty Counsel, created history when storming home in front under Ben Dalton to become only the fourth mare to land the accolade since 1989.
The 11-year-old is now retired, and this year the 'ladies' will be represented by eight-year-old Caoimhe's Delight, who is among the 69 entries announced at Charlestown Stud, the home of Dot Love, last week.
"We are delighted with the entries for the Boylesports Irish Grand National," commented Peter Roe, the general manager at Fairyhouse. "This is an exciting new sponsorship deal and we look forward to working with them in developing the race and the weekend."
In addition to Irish entries such as Ulster Grand National winner Yes Tom, and top weight Don Cossack, there is also a healthy contingent from across the water. Mr Roe added: "This includes the Welsh Grand National winner, Mountainous, who fell at the ninth at Aintree. Jonjo O'Neill also has three entered, with one of those being Alfie Sherrin, who was third last year."
Other top races over the weekend include Sunday's Powers Gold Cup, which has attracted Willie Mullins' pairing of Champagne Fever and Ballycasey, and Valdez from the Alan King yard in England. Monday's Grade Two Keelings' Hurdle is expected to see the return of 2012 winner Get Me Out Of Here.